Khim Finan, the governor of Banteay Srei district in Siem Reap province, said he would welcome the opening of an investigation into his conduct, after a businesswoman sued him for “inciting and invading private property, and non-compliance with a court decision”.
Finan told The Post on February 20 that the lawsuit, filed by Ly Om Eng, was related to a 200ha land dispute, and that he would continue to carry out the duties of his office, regardless of the circumstances.
“I will carry on with my work. If any of what she alleges turns out to be correct, we will alter that part of the decision. We have always operated on the principles of neutrality, transparency and fairness for all parties. Since the land was covered in forest in 2002, the final decision must rest with the government,” he said.
He said that all of his decisions were made on behalf of the local authority, which represented the district administration and by extension, the executive branch. Therefore, a mistake could not be the fault of the individual but of the institution.
He added that as governor, he was not afraid of taking responsibility for any mistakes that were made.
“I welcome an investigation or audit of this case. It would prove my innocence and provide justice for the civil servants who were involved in this case. Our intention was to resolve the issue at the time, and I believe we did so in a legal manner. I am ready to step down from my position and face the law, should I be found guilty of behaving in the way Om Eng alleges,” he said.
Om Eng declined to comment on February 20, saying she was busy with meetings.
According to her complaint – filed to the Siem Reap Provincial court on February 14 – Finan “incited, violated private property rights and disobeyed court orders”.
Om Eng said said that in 2003 she bought plots of land with a total area of 200ha in Romchek commune’s Rovieng Ta Tum and Romchek villages in Banteay Srei district.
The land was bought for her by Lim Chok, a farmer who still lives in the area.
Chok purchased plots of land from several other local farmers and had documentation – including thumbprints – to prove it, she said.
“I put the land under my name and that of my daughter, Ly Seng Chhay. The documents were signed and recognised by the village and commune chiefs and by former district governor Un Vong.
“On December 26, 2003, the Banteay Srei district Office of Land Management issued receipts. After the purchase, I cleared the border posts and have occupied the land until the present,” she said.